It’s true what they say: all things worth doing take time and effort. Learning to play a musical instrument is an endless process. There are no shortcuts – you just have to keep on practising. However, bad practice won’t get you to where you want to be.
The question isn’t about whether you’re practising enough. Rather, it should be about how to practise smart so your hard work will pay off. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of every practice session.
Set Aside a Specific Time
Saying you’re going to practise 30 minutes each day is easy, but actually doing it isn’t. Everyone is busy and it’s tempting to come up with excuses to put it off. Be it 10 minutes or 45 minutes, make sure you specifically reserve a time for practice. Then say “Stop! Music Time.”
Effective scheduling is also important. Try to choose a time of the day when you tend to be most energetic and productive for a practice session. This will help you stay focused and think clearly.
Always Warm Up First
Going straight into hard practice without warming up is counterproductive. It can cause a strain or sprain, which can put you out of action for weeks.
Similar to playing sports, spend the first few minutes warming up at the beginning of each practice session. Try playing a few simple scales or stretch your arms and wrists gently. This allows your muscles to limber up before they start doing the heavy work.
Learn to “Hear” the Music in Your Head
It will take you longer to learn a piece of music if you can’t “hear” what it sounds like in your mind.
When you first look at a new piece of music, learn to sing it first. Even if you’re not a singer – the quality of your voice is irrelevant. Once you’re able to “hear” the music in your head, then you can grab your instrument and play.
Work on What You Can’t Do (Yet)
We all learn the best from making mistakes. If you play perfectly every time then most likely your practice pieces are no longer challenging enough and you’re probably wasting your time.
If you think you’ve mastered a piece of music, give yourself some credit and move on. Focus on what you can’t do instead. See mistakes as opportunities to help you improve.
Practise Smarter, Not Harder
It’s important to make the most of the time you have. However, when things aren’t working, regardless of how hard you’ve tried, you need to go in a different direction and experiment with a new strategy.
Take some time to brainstorm some ideas and start experimenting with them. Go as slow as you want, but make a mental note to come back to that one trouble spot again the next time you practise. Don’t worry, it’ll get easier.
Relax and Reward Yourself
Tension hinders progress. You will only get better if you relax your muscles and your mind. As Bill Murray said, as an artist you do the best you can when you’re very, very relaxed.
If you can’t stay loose, don’t push yourself further. Take a break and get some fresh air. Trying to exceed your limit won’t help you accomplish anything. Likewise, reward your hard work in a positive way. This will enable your brain to automate good habits.
Life is short and isn’t meant to be wasted on bad practice. So make the most of your valuable time by practising smarter.
We hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any other suggestions to optimise your music practice, share with us in the comments below!
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